Don’t Qualify for SNAP? The Commodity Supplemental Food Program Could Help Seniors Get Food

Hands of a thoughtful old man leaning on a cane, sitting at home.
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The American Rescue Plan provided an additional $37 million to boost a program for elderly citizens who might need extra help with groceries and food each month.

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The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides low-income elderly individuals with supplemental nutritious food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture each month. The monthly packages of food do not include whole meals and meal packages but rather supply supplemental food products that are “good sources of the nutrients typically lacking in the diets of the beneficiary population.”

 The CSFP program supplies a variety of food, like grains, oatmeal, corn grits, beans, peanut butter, canned chicken, beef and tuna and canned low-sodium vegetables like corn and peas.

Details on all the foods available through the program can be found on the U.S.D.A Food and Nutrition Service website.

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In order to be eligible for the program, an individual must be 60 years or older and must have household income at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The income guidelines are below for the 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia. Income limits for Alaska and Hawaii are established and published annually by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Federal Poverty Income Guidelines: 48 Contiguous States and District of Columbia
Federal Poverty Guidelines — 100% CSFP Poverty Guidelines for the Elderly — 130% of Federal Guidelines
Household Size Annual Annual Monthly  Weekly
1 $12,880 $16,744 $1,396 $322
2 $17,420 $22,646 $1,888 $436
3 $21,960 $28,548 $2,379 $549
4 $26,500 $34,450 $2,871 $663
5 $31,040 $40,352 $3,363 $776
6 $35,580 $46,254 $3,855 $890
7 $40,120 $52,156 $4,347 $1,003
8 $44,660 $58,058 $4,839 $1,117
For each add’l. household member, add $4,540 $5,902 $492 $114

 To reach the annual income limit of 130%, the poverty guidelines are multiplied by 1.30, and the results are then rounded up to the next whole dollar. These income guidelines are gross income, meaning before tax deductions for items like income taxes, employees’ Social Security taxes, insurance premiums and bonds. This means whatever your pre-tax income is, that’s what is counted towards the whole for the income limitation.

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 Each state has its own guidelines for program participation and overall eligibility. States may also establish local residency requirements based on designated service areas but may not require a minimum period of residency. In addition, states can require that participants be at “nutritional risk” as determined by a physician or by local agency staff.

In order to apply, you will need to contact your state’s distributing agency, which you can find here.

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This program is in addition and/or a supplement to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit allocations. This means it is possible to receive SNAP benefits and still receive food packages as part of the CSFP program.

With the additional stimulus relief bill funds, around 760,000 elderly individuals now receive food packages from the CSFP program.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 

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